Fresh-faced rookies, world champions and national level competitors packed into the Microtel Inn conference room Saturday afternoon for Battle Zone 10.
The field was a collection of individuals vying for arm wrestling supremacy, tangled hand-in-hand trying to gain experience and bragging rights in Red Deer.
One of the new names on the circuit is Donna Purdy, who booked a place in nationals earlier this year after becoming an unlikely champion in her home province of Manitoba.
She made the trip to Red Deer to find some different competition that will help her prepare for the best arm wrestling talent Canada has to offer. She won the open ladies flight right hand on Saturday.
“It was fantastic. I didn’t come to lose. I’ve never pulled these girls before so it was very competitive. A little bit different than Manitoba. But the experience was great and now I know a little bit of my competition going to nationals,” she said.
She was also in Central Alberta participating in an APTN documentary called “Arm Nation.”
The 13-episode show will feature Purdy and a number of other indigenous arm wrestling stars including World Champion Steph Heroux.
Heroux took part in exhibition match at the event, but was there in a teaching role for the other participants.
“It’s beautiful. More people that come in and try this, they are starting to realize what kind of sport it is,” he said. “It’s like a game of chess, you can’t just go in there and throw stuff around and hope for the best. You’ve gotta really study and be behind your moves.”
Heroux beat Dan Marfei 2-0 in a demo pull but Marfei will still compete at nationals later this summer.
While he’s still recovering from an brutal bicep injury, Heroux explained being part of “Arm Nation” and growing the sport means a lot to him.
“It’s awesome, I’m throwing everything at it because I love it. I’m a creator,” he said. “I’m trying to create and help out. Arm Nation is perfect, I can talk to them and tell them what arm wrestling is all about.”
Neil Looker, a local Red Deer arm wrestler who won the men’s 161-195-pound left handed category said he’s been doing it for almost 20 years in different provinces across Canada and just loves the thrill.
“You just fall in love with it. I just have a real desire for it. Now I’ve got my kids involved, so we keep it going,” he said.
He added the local scene has a good group of arm wrestlers and they get together a few times a week to sharpen their skills.
“It’s good camaraderie, everyone is best of friends,” Looker said.
“We get together once or twice a week and practice. It’s like no other sport. Everyone is buddies, we share secrets and technique. It’s competitive at the table, but aside from that everyone is really good friends.”
Other winners included:
Masters open left and right: Maurice Thebeau
Amateur 176-200 pounds left: Colin Shroeder
Amateur 176-200 pounds right: Marc Yunger
Amateur 225-pounds plus left and right: Dan Marfei
Pro Women Open left: Stacy Foster
Pro Woemn Open right: Donna Purdy
Men’s 161-195 right: Jason Tibok
Men’s 225 plus left and right: Vitali Degtiaenko
Youth 6-9 years old left and right: Andrew Miller
Youth 10-13 years old left and right: Mason Droesse
Youth 14-17 years old left and right: Riley Weeks